St. Vincent

St. Vincent photo starrating-3andahalfstars.jpgBill Murray is Vincent McKenna, an aging curmudgeon who drinks, gambles and frequents prostitutes. Ok so he really only patronizes one prostitute in particular (Naomi Watts), a hooker with the proverbial heart of gold. Into his life enters new neighbor Maggie (Melissa McCarthy) and her young son Oliver (Jaeden Lieberher). They have recently moved in next door. She is trying to make a life for her 12 year old the best way she knows how. Earning a living as well as raising a child can be difficult. As the sole provider, she makes an arrangement with Vincent where he can conveniently watch the little tyke while she works from morning to night, for a fee of course. An odd rapport blossoms between the improbable duo that ultimately benefits them both.

As you read that synopsis you’re likely to roll your eyes at the utterly hackneyed contrivance being set up. What saves St. Vincent from mawkish sentimentality is the presence of Bill Murray who hasn’t anchored a comedy since Rushmore 16 years ago, and that was more of a co-starring role anyway. It’s easy to dismiss his performance as merely an exaggerated version of himself. He’s boozy, cantankerous, carries himself with a “I don’t care attitude” and dresses the part. But he settles into the role with such a relaxed easiness that we are intrigued by this heightened version of his embittered self . There’s no doubt that Murray is the reason to see St. Vincent.

That’s not to say the rest of the cast isn’t spectacular. Murray’s scenes wouldn’t have had such power if he didn’t have chemistry with his budding co-star, Jaeden Lieberher. As the puny kid who gets picked on at school, he is in need of some guidance. Oliver’s interactions with Vincent are sweet and they form an engaging twosome. Jaeden really holds his own with the comedic legend. In fact the entire climax rests on the young actor’s shoulders and he delivers the emotionally affecting speech like a pro. It’s nice to see Melissa McCarthy underplay in a restrained turn as the single mom. One might question her choice to leave her son with Vincent. However it’s a choice we accept because she’s likable and we feel sorry for her plight. Naomi Watts as a pregnant Russian stripper is as ridiculous as it sounds, but her scenes are good for a few scattered laughs. However the part is essentially window dressing and not intrinsic to the plot.

St. Vincent is a comedy with some real drama sprinkled throughout. Bill Murray and Jaeden Lieberher form an implausible mentor / student relationship that is genuinely appealing. Incongruous pairings, particularly involving corrupt adult authority figures, is kind of routine these days. The way this production entertains is not. The script has a lot of heart and the ensemble elevates what could have been corny into something enjoyable. St. Vincent is a reliable old couch that is broken in and comfortable. There’s bona fide joy in seeing an elder statesman of comedy do what he does best. Murray started his career in films playing the rumpled goofball. I’m talking about his early hits like Meatballs and Stripes. When was the last time Murray starred in a comedy that broad? Too long is the answer. Welcome back Bill Murray, it’s always good to see you again.


19 Responses to “St. Vincent”

  1. Debating on whether I’m more interested in how Murray or McCarthy do in St. Vincent, but you answered my question pretty easily. It’s definitely the former and although I’m seeing that this story is rather cliched, I look forward to how they act it all out. The pairing of those two really is awesome. Can’t wait.


    • The plot essentially concerns characters played by Bill Murray and young actor Jaeden Lieberher.

      Melissa McCarthy as well as Chris O’Dowd, Naomi Watts and Terrence Howard are big names in very minor parts.


  2. I can’t believe I turned down an opportunity to see this and saw John Wick instead. Great review.

    Sent from my iPhone



    • So what made John Wick so bad? The critical consensus has been overwhelmingly positive.


      • There’s a lot of violence and barely any story. The guy just seems to be going around killing people for barely any reason at all, and we’re supposed to root for him, even though the “bad guys” have more of a motive than he does and aren’t killing literally everyone in sight. Plus a lot of the humor is utterly tasteless. For example, a scene in which John Wick opens fire on innocent people in a church is played for laughs. The director treats a gunmen walking down the aisle as a sight gag. Keanu held up his role well, but then there’s the rest of the cast, which delivers poorly. It’s great to see Michael Nyqvist in American movies, but he’s such a caricature here. Also, Giancarlo Esposito takes on an annoyingly fake accent. I can’t even tell what sort of dialect he was trying to imitate.


      • It doesn’t sound like I’d enjoy that either. Thanks for the warning.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Not a problem. Yeah I can easily see you giving it two stars or less.


  3. Good the hear that Murray has went back to his roots, a little. It’s been a while since I’ve seen him leading a comedy. Mixed views on it so far, but its good hear some positivity. Cheers Mark!


  4. Good review Mark. The cast does well, but the script they’re stuck with really takes them away from going that extra mile.


  5. Nice review, Mark. Looking forward to catching this one, and it IS great to see Bill Murray again. Love this statement –> “St. Vincent is a reliable old couch that is broken in and comfortable.”


  6. Bill Murray is awesome. I’m glad he is back in a starring role. This was better than I expected. The kid, Naomi and Melissa were all very good too. It’s a tear jerker,too. I wasn’t ready for that. 4 stars.


  7. Looking forward to this. I’m glad Melissa McCarthy is doing something other than her usual routine.


  8. I didn’t love Saint Vincent, but I agree that Bill Murray’s performance came off as very natural. He had great rapport with Jaeden Lieberher. I also appreciated McCarthy’s restrained turn. I’d love to see her in more roles like that. I was pleasantly surprised by the real drama that popped up toward the middle of this film. It certainly kept the movie from being disposable and cliched. Your description of the picture as a reliable old couch is perfect.


    • I’m shocked that Bill Murray didn’t get more Oscar talk. Not that the performance is the best of the year, but given his status and the fact that he does genuinely good work here, I would have expected it.

      Liked by 1 person

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